Of the 16 teams fighting for a place in the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores, only Deportivo Quito hold a significant advantage from last week’s last 16, first legs, while Velez Sarsfield were the only side to win on the road. Though those two ties look to be all but decided, the remaining six are all hanging in the balance. FIFA.com sets the scene for the week’s eight return games in the first knockout round of Latin America’s leading club competition.
Game of the week
Thursday 10 May, 22:00 (local time), Estadio Joao Havelange, Rio de Janeiro
These are tense times for two of Brazil’s biggest clubs, both of whom have also had state finals to occupy themselves with, though they shrugged off the pressure with fine wins at the weekend. While Flu were beating Botafogo 4-1 in Rio de Janeiro, Inter were seeing off surprise packages Caxias 1-0 away.
The two now face a decisive 90 minutes at the Engenhao to settle a tie that stands all square after last week’s goalless draw in Porto Alegre, one of only two last week. Runners-up in 2008, Fluminense will be banking on the in-form Rafael Sobis to mete out the same treatment to his former club as he did in scoring twice against Botafogo at the weekend. Meanwhile, O Colorado, who won the competition in 2006 and 2010, are likely to be without midfielder Andres d’Alessandro, though they are expected to welcome back midfielders Jesus Datolo and Oscar and forward Dagoberto.
Jhasmani Campos was Bolivar’s match-winner when they saw off defending champions Santos 2-1 in La Paz, a result that leaves the tie finely poised, though a 1-0 scoreline at the Vila Belmiro will be enough to take Neymar and Co through to the last eight on the away-goals rule.
Boca Juniors and Vasco da Gama also won their respective home ties with Union Espanola and Lanus 2-1. The Brazilians’ hopes of defending their slender advantage have been dented by the news that centre-half Dede has not regained full fitness as hoped, though they will be able to call on the services of the experienced Juninho Pernambucano for the first time on their travels. As for Los Xeneizes, they will have to make do without Santiago El Tanque Silva, the scorer of their winner in the first leg, who sustained an injury in training on Sunday.
Relieved to escape from Guayaquil with a 0-0 draw after playing for virtually all of the second half with ten men, Corinthians have everything to play for again when they entertain Emelec at the Pacaembu. Cruz Azul missed the chance to build up a cushion for their trip to Asuncion when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Libertad in Mexico City, a result that leaves the Paraguayans slight favourites.
Velez Sarsfield did the hard work by beating Atletico Nacional in Medellin and need only a draw at home to advance, while Universidad de Chile must work something of a miracle in Santiago after their unexpected 4-1 mauling at the hands of Deportivo Quito.
Player to watch
Fidel Martinez (Deportivo Quito)
After failing to make much of an impression at Cruzeiro, the 22-year-old midfielder has become a vital cog for the Ecuadorians. The livewire Martinez proved a constant thorn in the side of the Universidad defence in the first leg and scored one of his team’s four goals. La U cannot afford to let him run riot again in Santiago if they are to have any chance of progressing.
Did you know?
Known for his mazy runs, pure technique and lightning speed, Neymar has also become a feared goalscorer - all at the age of 20. His figures for 2012 are impressive to say the least, the hot property having scored 23 goals in 22 matches, his last two Campeonato Paulista appearances yielding five goals alone.
What they said
Julio Cesar Falcioni, Boca Juniors coach: “This Boca team is all about the players, not Falcioni. They’re doing things the right way. We’re battling on three fronts and they’re fighting for the jersey and making the fans very happy. We always manage to cover our injuries and the people who come in try to solve a problem for us. That’s the strength of this team."
This week's fixtures
Velez Sarsfield (ARG) - Atletico Nacional (COL)
Libertad (PAR) - Cruz Azul (MEX)
Union Espanola (CHI) - Boca Juniors (ARG)
Corinthians (BRA) - Emelec (EQU)
Lanus (ARG) – Vasco da Gama (BRA)
Santos (BRA) - Bolivar (BOL)
Fluminense (BRA) - Internacional (BRA)
Universidad de Chile (CHI) - Deportivo Quito (EQU)